Luxembourgs Prime Minister Xavier Bettel and Gilles Nackaerts, CEO of Brasserie de Luxembourg and Country Director Luxembourg of AB InBev, have officially opened on Friday the group’s newest brewery. The investment costed EUR25 million (USD28.3m) and took little more than two years to be completed.
The opening marks a change of mind of the world’s largest brewing group. In 2010 AB InBev took the decision to close the brewery and to transfer the production to one of its other production facilities in Belgium. 63 employees were in danger of losing their jobs.
In a shrinking beer market, the brewery that was founded in 1871 had permanently lost sales. In 2002, Interbrew, that merged with Brasilian brewer AmBev two years later to become InBev and later AB InBev, bought the beer market leader in Luxembourg. In 2010 the brewery had lost its leadership to local competitor Brasserie Bofferding and further dwindling sales led AB InBev to the decision to close Brasserie de Luxembourg.
After hefty public protests, the group agreed to sell the property and buildings to the Saphir Capital Partners group of investors but to continue to operate them on a rental basis. In the following years AB InBev designed a new brewery next to the old one. The new brewing site is a compact building of 25 meters of height, of which 8 meters are underground. Beer filling devices have been omitted and the beer is being transported in tank trunks for filling to a much bigger plant of the group close to its headquarter in Louvain, Belgium.
The remaining property in Diekirch, a village in the state of Luxembourg, which also gives its name to the main brand of the brewery, will be converted by Saphir Capital Partners and Matexi Luxembourg into a new urban district.
Besides Diekirch, AB InBev also produces the Mousel brand at the new site. A flexible production with the possibility to brew small batches with 150 hl “allows the brewery to better respond to changing consumer behavior,” according to Nackaerts.
Pierre Van Vynckt, brewmaster of Brasserie de Luxembourg, calls the brewery “a big laboratory" where "we have the opportunity to experiment and let our creativity run wild," he adds. "The brewery has management autonomy, and the lab approach is important to me," confirms Nackaerts.